Rolls-Royce's first phase of performance improvements for its Trent 900 will enter production by the end of this year, clearing the way for enhanced engines - and providing a 1% cut in specific fuel consumption (SFC) - to be fitted to new-build Airbus A380s from early 2012.
The package one improvements use technology borrowed from the Trent 1000 and Trent 700EP programmes, and introduce elliptical - rather than circular arc - leading edges for intermediate- and high-pressure compressor blades and vanes, as well as reduced low-pressure turbine tip clearances, the UK-based manufacturer said.
"With the improvements we have made, we have delivered a 1% improvement in SFC, which is being delivered to customers now," said Rosie Toogood, Trent 900 programme director.
"More than half of these improvements are retrofittable," she added, either on-wing or during shop visits.
A second tranche of improvements is due to be made available for the Trent 900 in 2013, using further technologies developed for the Trent 1000 and Trent XWB, such as an optimised air system and improved turbine case cooling for better performance retention.
"We're targeting up to 0.8% improvement through these modifications," Toogood added.
Phase two also incorporates optimised fan-blade tip clearances, improved sealing in the low-pressure turbine and elliptical leading edges for engine section stators.
Rolls-Royce's head of Airbus marketing, Peter Johnston, said: "The [package one] 1% means the engine meets specification, and in fact puts it a little bit ahead, and then the [package two] 0.8% is even better.
"It's nice that the world's airlines are really focusing on the A380 again, as the economy starts to come back a bit this year."
The three-shaft Trent 900 powered the first A380 to enter service with Singapore Airlines in 2007. The engine now equips 30 aircraft in service with the Singapore flag-carrier, Australia's Qantas Airways and Germany's Lufthansa.
The powerplant - offered for the A380 in competition with the Engine Alliance GP7200 - has accumulated about 945,000 flying hours during 103,000 engine cycles, Toogood said.
China Southern Airlines has just taken delivery of its first A380 - a Trent-powered aircraft - while the first Trent-powered A380 for the next new customer, Malaysia Airlines, carried out its maiden flight on 20 October.